2 San Antonio Spurs A still-developing Slovenian newcomer is the center of attention

October 27, 2003

Obscured by the persistent praise paid David Robinson, the Human
Being, was the fact that David Robinson, the Center, could play a
little, even as his stats dwindled in the twilight of a 14-year
career. His court sense, help defense and ability to clog the
lane were crucial elements in the Spurs' championship run last
season. And so it was understandable that Rasho Nesterovic,
assigned to man the Admiral's station this season, said early in
camp, "I am not David Robinson."

Indeed he isn't, but Nesterovic better have a good bit of the
Admiral in him, for the Spurs' chances of repeating may hinge on
his development. There's no reason Tim Duncan won't have another
MVP-caliber year, and with the off-season acquisitions of Ron
Mercer and Hedo Turkoglu, the Spurs have the most versatile
perimeter players in the league. But winning the West may still
come down to neutralizing Shaquille O'Neal--well, doing something
close to that.

Nesterovic, 27, is a true center recognized for his on-the-blocks
efficiency and his potential to improve. (His scoring average
jumped from 8.4 in 2001-02 to 11.2 in '02-03.) That's good, but
what coach Gregg Popovich will be looking for is improvement in
Nesterovic's career averages in rebounds (5.4) and blocked shots
(1.18).

Nesterovic, who was born in Slovenia, played five seasons for
Minnesota until becoming a free agent last summer. On July 1, the
first date free agents could be contacted directly, Popovich was
at a coaching clinic in Belgrade and made the five-hour drive to
a small restaurant in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to invite Nesterovic
to become a Spur. "It meant a lot that the coach of the world
championship team would come to see me," he says.

Now, Rasho, it's time to show him a lot. --Jack McCallum

COLOR PHOTO: D. CLARKE EVANS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES Rasho Nesterovic COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO (DUNCAN) TIM TERRIFIC For all he did last season, MVP Duncan will have to shoulder an even bigger load following Robinson's retirement.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Spurs

"They're the defending champions, but they're not the same without
David Robinson, Stephen Jackson, Speedy Claxton and Steve Kerr.
The Spurs can still win the West, but so can three or four other
teams.... You won't know how good their new players are until
they prove themselves in the pressure of the playoffs. Hedo
Turkoglu was beaten out of spot in the Kings' rotation last year
by Jimmy Jackson. Can Turkoglu and Ron Mercer do the kinds of
things off the bench that we saw from Manu Ginobili and Kerr?....
The one guy who deserves the benefit of the doubt is 33-year-old
Robert Horry. While it looked as if his offensive game
deteriorated with the Lakers, that may have been because they
asked him to play almost 30 minutes per game last year. This is a
guy with five rings--he'll get a role that will make use of his
defense and rebounding, his big-play capability and his outside
shooting, which will help stretch defenses for Tim Duncan....
When Duncan was a rookie, his weakness was passing out of the
double teams, but now his passing is so strong that the Spurs'
offense is built around him picking defenses apart.... Jackson
will be replaced in the starting lineup by Ginobili, who is an
improvement in every area. Not only is Ginobili a better ball
handler and decision maker, but he's also a clutch defender who
makes steals and hustle plays all over the floor.... The
confidence of winning a title should help Tony Parker flourish as
a leader, even at 21. He'll always be able to draw on the fact
that he bounced back from those tough early-round games against
Stephon Marbury.... The biggest question is why San Antonio
signed Parker's new backup, Anthony Carter, who's a dubious
decision maker and a career 38 percent shooter. I don't see how a
guy who can't hit open jumpers will survive in this offense."

FAST FACT

Since 1972 only Phil Jackson (1995-96 Bulls) and Gregg Popovich
(2002-03) won a title and Coach of the Year in the same season.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
with 2002-03 statistics

Record: 60-22 (1st in West)
Points scored: 95.8 (12th in NBA)
Points allowed: 90.4 (3rd)
Coach: Gregg Popovich(eighth season with Spurs)

[1]RASHO NESTEROVIC

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT%
C 93 11.2 6.5 1.5 1.51 0.51 52.5 64.2

BRUCE BOWEN

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
SF 201 7.1 2.9 1.4 0.80 46.6 44.1 40.4

TONY PARKER

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
PG 65 15.5 2.6 5.3 0.87 46.4 33.7 75.5

MANU GINOBILI

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
SG 98 7.6 2.3 2.0 1.39 43.8 34.5 73.7

TIM DUNCAN

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT%
PF 1 23.3 12.9 3.9 2.93 0.68 51.3 71.0

BENCH PVR* 2002-03 KEY STATS

F[1] HEDO
TURKOGLU 103 6.7 ppg 2.8 rpg 1.3 apg 42.2 FG% 37.2 3FG%
F MALIK
ROSE 118 10.4 ppg 6.4 rpg 1.6 apg 0.72 spg 45.9 FG%
F[1] RON
MERCER 136 7.7 ppg 2.1 rpg 1.6 apg 0.68 spg 40.9 FG%
F[1] ROBERT
HORRY 143 6.5 ppg 6.4 rpg 2.9 apg 0.76 bpg 28.8 3FG%
G[1] ANTHONY
CARTER 211 4.1 ppg 1.7 rpg 4.1 apg 0.92 spg 35.6 FG%

NEW ACQUISITION[1]
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 94)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)